Investigating American Presidents
Paul Rosenzweig is a Professorial Lecturer in Law at The George Washington University Law School. He earned his JD from the University of Chicago Law School and then served as a law clerk to the Honorable R. Lanier Anderson III of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. He was chosen as the 15th annual Sommerfeld Lecturer at The Judge Advocate General’s Legal Center and School and was awarded a Carnegie Fellowship at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. In his nonacademic endeavors, Mr. Rosenzweig is a senior fellow at the R Street Institute, a public policy think tank in Washington DC. He is also the founder of Red Branch Consulting PLLC, a homeland security consulting company, as well as a senior advisor to The Chertoff Group. Mr. Rosenzweig formerly served as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy in the US Department of Homeland Security, and he is currently a distinguished visiting fellow at the Homeland Security Studies and Analysis Institute. He is also an advisor to the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on Law and National Security and a contributing editor of the Lawfare blog. Mr. Rosenzweig is the author of Cyber Warfare: How Conflicts in Cyberspace Are Challenging America and Changing the World, coauthor of Winning the Long War: Lessons from the Cold War for Defeating Terrorism and Preserving Freedom, and coeditor of both National Security Law in the News: A Guide for Journalists, Scholars, and Policymakers and Whistleblowers, Leaks, and the Media: The First Amendment and National Security. Mr. Rosenzweig’s other Great Courses are Thinking about Cybersecurity: From Cyber Crime to Cyber Warfare and The Surveillance State: Big Data, Freedom, and You.
01: American Presidents and the Rule of Law
How does the investigation of a U.S. president’s misconduct differ from an investigation into the misconduct of a private citizen? After exploring the roots of the presidency and presidential power as outlined in the Constitution, consider the advantages and disadvantages a president has during an investigation. Then, Professor Rosenzweig explains why this subject is essential knowledge for any American citizen.
02: Presidential Investigations through History
Presidential crises and abuses of power aren’t just features of modern times. Early executive scandals have had significant long-term effects that resonate down the corridors of time. Learn how we’re still dealing with the fallout of famous (and sometimes overlooked) investigations into abuses of presidential power, including Ulysses S. Grant’s Whiskey Ring and Warren G. Harding’s Teapot Dome scandal.
03: Separation of Powers and the Presidency
Today, legislative and judicial oversight of the presidency are a permanent part of American government and critical to limiting and restraining the possibility of executive abuse. In this lecture, learn how our system of checks and balances came to exist—with, among other things, a close look at the landmark judicial review case, Marbury v. Madison.
04: Watergate and the Special Prosecutor
The names of the Watergate burglars are mostly forgotten—but the consequences of their arrest brought down President Richard Nixon. Topics in this lecture include two important Supreme Court cases that shaped a president’s power to dismiss personnel, as well as the Independent Counsel Act, which established a truly independent form of investigative authority.
05: Rise and Fall of the Independent Counsel
After the Nixon presidency, Congress and the American public became convinced that an independent investigator function was essential. Twenty years later, they let that function expire. Why did that happen, and what’s replaced it? Follow the swing from the special prosecutor of the Nixon era to the independent counsel of the Reagan and Clinton eras back to the special counsel leading the investigation of Russian election hacking and the 2016 Trump campaign.
06: Can a Sitting President Be Indicted?
Assume for a moment that there exists convincing evidence of a president’s criminality. What does that do to the country’s management? Is it legal to indict a sitting president? Or does the president in question just “get away” with it? Ponder these and other intriguing questions about whether or not a president is in a class of his/her own when it comes to indictments.
07: Presidential Use and Abuse of Privileges
Depending on where you sit, testimonial privileges are either barriers to the truth or limitations on the disclosure of sensitive information. Using the Whitewater and Lewinsky scandals that swirled around President Bill Clinton and his lawyer, Bruce Lindsey, in the late 1990s, explore the topics of attorney-client privilege and executive privilege (the right of the president to withhold information from public scrutiny).
08: Presidents, Prosecutors, and Public Opinion
The most significant confrontation between a president and a president’s investigators happens not in a court of law but in the court of public opinion. Often, the “storyline” is the deciding factor in how an investigation will be seen by future historians. Examine four different tactics used by President Bill Clinton and his team that helped them achieve a public relations victory.
09: The Pardon Power and Its Limits
Investigate the use (and possible misuse) of presidential pardons. Start by looking at two general types of pardons in American history: the “justice and mercy” pardon and the “peacefulness” pardon. Then, focus on key questions about the presidential pardon power: Can American presidents pardon co-conspirators for crimes they’ve committed, thereby frustrating an investigation? Can they pardon themselves?
10: Presidential Lies and Cover-Ups
Presidential lies can undermine our belief in the fairness of our system of government and our faith in its legitimacy. In this lecture, focus on how the president isn’t special when it comes to certain matters of law and evidence (lying under oath, obstruction of justice, and grand jury subpoenas)—as well as some key caveats to this view.
11: The Value of Investigative Reports
Even if formally cleared of wrongdoing, a president or a presidential aide may live with the stigma of investigation forever thanks to an independent counsel’s report. First, explore why many investigations typically happen behind closed doors. Then, turn to how the rules are different for presidents and their senior staff (and whether or not that’s a good idea).
12: The Law and Politics of Impeachment
Conclude this lecture series with a study of the “nuclear option” in presidential investigations: impeachment. Learn why impeachment is inevitably as much a political event as a legal one—and why, when a presidency is on the line, public opinion is at least as powerful a determinant of the outcome as the laws that are on the books.
Enjoy a bonus lecture with Professor Paul Rosenzweig as he guides you through the ins and outs of presidential investigations, using past events as a lens through which to make sense of current (and future) ones.